Fulbright Scholarship Takes Professor to Africa

In Tanzania, small businesses now have the chance to blossom — and JWU professor Erin Wilkinson is helping to make sure they're successful.

Training African Women to Be Entrepreneurs
Her first time in Tanzania, Erin sat down on the floor of a hut and taught a group of women how to build successful small businesses.

“These women are trying to create a future for their families,” Erin says. “Your husband's gone, you have kids to feed. What do you do?”

For a woman named Safia, the answer was simple: work with a non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to create and sell handmade products, like honey. Safia started a tiny oyster-shell jewelry company.

“It’s exciting," Erin says. "There are huge unrealized opportunities for rural microenterprises in the local ecotourism industry.” And Erin wanted to make sure Safia succeeded.

BLOG: Erin's adventures in Africa  

Fulbright scholar Erin Wilkinson teaches women in Africa how to create sustainable small businesses

Problem: No Marketing Skills
“On my first visit, I met this hotel manager who was looking for handmade products to sell in his gift shop."

“These women were making exactly what he wanted, right down the road. And he had no idea!”

“These women make great products, but they don't know how to find markets. What they need on the ground is some kind of 'small business development center,' where people can come for training.”

Solution: Business Development on a National Scale
So Erin is heading back to Africa — this time, to teach “Marketing for Microenterprises” to future researchers and NGO project managers at the University of Dar es Salaam's IMS. “Then, they can train small-business owners in marketing.”

“These women make great products, but they don't know how to find markets. What they need on the ground is some kind of 'small business development center," Erin says.

“I’ve seen this work. When I taught Safia, she took everything I said and applied it to her business. And she started to make a profit.”

“I got to see her build a new home for her kids. Literally. She bought bricks, one by one, every few days, and laid the foundation of her house.”

“To get to see that immediate impact — that was amazing,” Erin says. And she can’t wait to help make it happen on a much bigger scale.

Inspired by Erin's story?
Learn marketing skills from JWU professors like Erin, who are active in the industry — and build the experience to make a global impact.